Wednesday, 3 December 2014

St. Augustine: The Four Virtues as the Four Forms of Love

"Four Rainbows over Niagara", Albert Bierstadt

Sometimes we are quick to think that the Church's many laws and theologies are irrelevant to Christ's law of love. This erroneous belief is especially visible when we try to talk about sins and virtues. Why do even bother to cultivate virtues, right? Isn't "the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:13)?

While I was browsing the net for some Augustinian writings, I came across the saint's own works, one of them is titled Of the Morals of the Catholic Church. In there, he offers a fantastic comparison of the four virtues as the four forms of love!

Now it's like the gigantic mind-puzzle in my head becomes ridiculously fuller and more beautiful. Thank you, St. Augustine, for the eureka moment. Here is the quote for your Advent thought food.
As to virtue leading us to a happy life, I hold virtue to be nothing else than perfect love of God. For the fourfold division of virtue I regard as taken from four forms of love. For these four virtues (would that all felt their influence in their minds as they have their names in their mouths!), I should have no hesitation in defining them: that temperance is love giving itself entirely to that which is loved; fortitude is love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object; justice is love serving only the loved object, and therefore ruling rightly; prudence is love distinguishing with sagacity between what hinders it and what helps it. The object of this love is not anything, but only God, the chief good, the highest wisdom, the perfect harmony. So we may express the definition thus: that temperance is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God; fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God; justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as subject to man; prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it.

St. Augustine
Of the Morals of the Catholic Church, Chapter 15

You can find the complete text here [click].

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